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How to be an amateur polyglot

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the author's experience and approach to becoming a polyglot, or someone who speaks multiple languages. It covers topics such as the definition of a polyglot, the importance of learning languages beyond just practical needs, and various methods and tools the author has used to learn new languages.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Setting the stage

1. How does the author define a polyglot? The author believes the definition of a polyglot is someone who can participate in discussions with native speakers on everyday and work-related topics, without constantly switching to English or using translation tools.

2. Why does the author think learning languages is important, even with the rise of AI translation? The author argues that learning a language allows you to better connect with the culture and people, which cannot be replicated by using translation tools. The small nuances and social aspects of language are irreplaceable.

3. What are the languages the author speaks and at what levels? The author is a native Greek speaker, proficient in English (C2), high level in Spanish (C1), medium level in French (B2), basic level in Italian (B1), and survival level in Dutch (A2).

[02] Get started

1. What does the author recommend for learning a first foreign language? The author suggests learning the first foreign language through formal instruction with an experienced teacher, as this can teach efficient learning techniques.

2. What does the author say is the most important factor when learning a new language? Motivation is key - the author recommends learning a language you are genuinely interested in, whether it's the culture, the sound of the language, or a personal connection.

3. What does the author say about learning a language you don't particularly like? The author provides the example of Dutch, which they found unappealing, resulting in slower progress compared to learning Italian which they enjoyed more.

[03] Methods & Tools

1. What app does the author recommend for language learning? The author strongly recommends the Memrise app, citing its use of spaced repetition, native speaker videos, and focus on everyday interactions as key advantages over Duolingo.

2. What other tools and methods does the author suggest? The author recommends:

  • Using the Lexilize app for spaced repetition of vocabulary
  • Consulting online verb conjugation charts
  • Hiring occasional online tutors from Preply to practice conversing
  • Using ChatGPT to ask grammar questions and create language learning games

3. What specific language learning strategies does the author advise? The author suggests:

  • Focus on 4 key tenses (past, past continuous, present, future)
  • Skip complex grammar like conditionals and indirect speech
  • Learn practical vocabulary related to your needs (e.g. travel, work)
  • Don't worry too much about gender of nouns or perfect pronunciation

[04] Continuous improvement

1. How does the author recommend using TV and books to improve language skills? For TV, the author suggests starting with shows in the target language with subtitles in your native language, then progressing to shows in the target language with subtitles in that language, and finally watching without any subtitles. For books, the author recommends using a Kindle to look up unknown words and phrases, and choosing books that are at a medium level of difficulty.

2. What does the author suggest regarding practicing with native speaker friends? The author encourages reaching out to native speaker friends to have conversations in the target language, even if you make mistakes. The author notes that some friends (like Spaniards) may default to English, so you need to specifically request to practice the target language.

3. When does the author say is the right time to start having casual conversations in the target language? The author advises not to wait until you are proficient to start conversing - the "inflection point" where the language starts to click is the right time to dive in and practice speaking, even if you make mistakes.

Shared by Daniel Chen ยท
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